The LG 49UF770V is one of LG's more affordable 4K screens, and it's almost an outstanding mid-range Ultra HD TV. Almost.
Ultra HD televisions are now utterly mainstream. Where once they were only available to those with their early-adopter wallets bursting at the seams, now they come in all shapes and sizes – and, more importantly, prices.
Of course you still have the hugely expensive options, like Panasonic's mighty £8,000 TX-65CZ952 OLED screen and the gorgeously flat LG 65EF950V, but by contrast you can also pick up a 42-inch 4K TV for less than £300. At the top you're still in elite territory, while at the bottom you are most definitely sacrificing a lot of visual refinement to have that box-ticking 4K panel. All of which makes the mid-range Ultra HD TVs, like the LG 49UF770V, a much more tantalising prospect for most of us.
I checked out the similarly priced 49-inch Sony 49X8307C a few months back, and that was lovely looking TV, with great upscaling and beautiful 4K imagery. Unfortunately it was brutally hamstrung by an Android TV interface that is still far from functional in the living room.
Can this competing LG option deliver a better experience or is it going to suffer from the same sort of problems?
What's in the box?
Of course, this being a 4K Ultra HD TV, we're talking about a screen with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 across its 49-inches of screen real estate. And as a modern LG television, it's using the excellent webOS software to make up its smart capabilities. The webOS setup is probably both the simplest and the most effective of all the options on offer right now.
On the connectivity side, it shows its more affordable leanings by only offering three HDMI 2.0 connections on the side panel, with a pair of USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port sat just above them.
To the rear are all the rest of the usual suspects when it comes to connections. There are a pair of RF, a full scart, composite, component as well as PC audio inputs, digital audio outputs, headphone jack and LAN ethernet connection. It also has Wi-Fi built into the set, if you can't stretch your cabling from router to TV.
While there are the now-standard optical connections to allow you to pump the audio out to a quality soundbar, the UF770 also packs a pair of 10W underslung down-firing speakers on the chassis. These are slightly angled to push the sound out into the room, and actually are surprisingly capable and more bassy than I was expecting. Vocals sound solid on them, but inevitably music suffers.
It's inevitable because of the trend for ever slimmer TV chassis, and while this is nowhere near as skinny as the fragile-looking (though deceptively robust) LG 55EG920V, it's still relatively svelte.
But the frame has nowhere near the luxury feel of LG's pricier range or even the similarly-priced 49-inch Sony. It all feels rather more plasticky than I've come to expect from LG, and the fat plastic foot across the base really does stick out a very long way.
Though that does make it very stable...
What you do get with the LG though is an outstanding remote. LG's Magic Remote is an excellent controller for your smart TV and makes navigating through the webOS interface – as well as the TV's settings – as easy as possible.
The webOS interface is one of the best smart TV operating systems going. That Wii-esque motion controlled remote is very intuitive and is one part of making webOS so usable.
The software designers seem to have been very much aware of the TV's function, and the interface rarely does anything to distract you away from watching whatever's meant to be on the screen.
The selection panel pops up from the bottom of the display, giving you access to different HDMI and smart TV sources, and there's a simple settings panel that slides in from the right to give you quick access to image and sound settings.
Of all the smart TV interfaces available, webOS offers the widest range of TV streaming and catch-up services. There's the obligatory BBC iPlayer and Demand5, though sadly it's still missing both All4 and the ITV Hub. But when it comes to subscription services, you can access NOW TV, Netflix and Amazon Video directly from the TV, almost entirely negating the need for a set-top box at all.
And because it's a 4K screen, you get the full Ultra HD versions of both Amazon Video and Netflix.
Unfortunately the actual performance of the LG 49UF770V is where it's a letdown. It's almost the exact reversal of my experiences with the Sony Android TV blighted 49X8307C. Where that set displayed impressive visuals on both UHD and upscaled sources but was ultimately sabotaged by the struggling Android TV OS, this LG version has an outstanding smart software solution built into it, but is hampered by the visuals.
As is often the way at this end of the market, the 4K Ultra HD playback is stunning, but the upscaling really suffers. This is all down to the electronics and the processing power of the TV itself: it struggles to stretch an SD or HD source up to the vast 4K resolution of the panel.
When playing 4K content, whether from Netflix, Amazon or from our UHD demo files, the image is crystal clear. It really shows off that extra depth, and the 8.3 million pixels of 4K bring an almost three-dimensional feel to the screen.
The motion is smooth and there is a level of brightness to the image which gives it seemingly more detail than the Sony 49X8307C.
But when you switch over to non-UHD sources, such as your live TV provider, things are far less impressive. On HD channels the image becomes noisy and a little fuzzy and indistinct, but things are at their worst in particularly dark scenes. Here, the upscaling visibly struggles, creating strange, almost hallucinatory effects on faces as they morph around an ill-lit scene.
And on SD channels it's even worse.
To LG's credit, it seems to operate better with HD sources from the streaming services and via the USB connections, but if you still watch TV from your service provider (you Luddite) then you might be in trouble.
There are further problems related to the weaker processing of this middle order LG display. When playing 4K content, the webOS software (including the settings screens) becomes incredibly sluggish. Adding that extra load on top of the Ultra HD processing seems too much. It's a slight issue I noticed with the LG 55EG920V too, though on its own it isn't a huge problem.